Early Adaptation of Colorectal Cancer Cells to the Peritoneal Cavity Is Associated with Activation of "Sternness" Programs and Local Inflammation

Jorge Barriuso, Raghavendar T. Nagaraju, Shreya Belgamwar, Bipasha Chakrabarty, George J. Burghel, Helene Schlecht, Lucy Foster, Elaine Kilgour, Andrew J. Wallace, Michael Braun, Caroline Dive, D. Gareth Evans, Robert G. Bristow, Mark P. Saunders, Sarah T. O'Dwyer, Omer Aziz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE: At diagnosis, colorectal cancer presents with synchronous peritoneal metastasis in up to 10% of patients. The peritoneum is poorly characterized with respect to its superspecialized microenvironment. Our aim was to describe the differences between peritoneal metastases and their matched primary tumors excised simultaneously at the time of surgery. Also, we tested the hypothesis of these differences being present in primary colorectal tumors and having prognostic capacity.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We report a comprehensive analysis of 30 samples from peritoneal metastasis with their matched colorectal cancer primaries obtained during cytoreductive surgery. We tested and validated the prognostic value of our findings in a pooled series of 660 colorectal cancer primary samples with overall survival (OS) information and 743 samples with disease-free survival (DFS) information from publicly available databases.

RESULTS: We identified 20 genes dysregulated in peritoneal metastasis that promote an early increasing role of "stemness" in conjunction with tumor-favorable inflammatory changes. When adjusted for age, gender, and stage, the 20-gene peritoneal signature proved to have prognostic value for both OS [adjusted HR for the high-risk group (vs. low-risk) 2.32 (95% confidence interval, CI, 1.69-3.19; P < 0.0001)] and for DFS [adjusted HR 2.08 (95% CI, 1.50-2.91; P < 0.0001)].

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicated that the activation of "stemness" pathways and adaptation to the peritoneal-specific environment are key to early stages of peritoneal carcinomatosis. The in silico analysis suggested that this 20-gene peritoneal signature may hold prognostic information with potential for development of new precision medicine strategies in this setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1119-1130
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2021

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre


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